An emotional Carles Puyol expressed his pride at having "lived the dream" at Barcelona after calling time on his trophy-laden career.
The 36-year-old will retire at the end of the season after a long-standing knee injury finally took its toll on the combative centre-half.
Puyol is a one-club man who won six Liga titles and three UEFA Champions League crowns, earning himself a reputation as one of the game's true greats along the way.
Addressing a farewell event held in his honour at Camp Nou on Thursday, Puyol recalled playing football with his brother as a child when such lofty achievements seemed mere fantasy.
"I would never have thought then that I would have this great career," he said.
"I've lived the dream of so many young kids, doing what I most enjoy in life, playing football and training. I've won lots of titles but the most important thing is the human warmth and feeling I take from this club. I came here as a boy and I'm leaving with a family who I'm really proud of."
Team-mates past and present were among the huge crowd gathered to bid a fond farewell to the Spaniard, who has 100 caps to his name and boasts FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship winners medals.
Puyol underlined his desire to be remembered as a wholehearted and committed player, while highlighting the sheer joy of having been able to play the sport he loves at the highest level.
"The one thing I have very clear is that I gave my absolute all for Barcelona and for football and I would like to be remembered as a player who did just that – who gave everything," he said.
"For 19 years I have been able to do what I love. I've won many trophies but what will remain with me is the human side of this club."
He also offered his thanks to the fans and paid tribute to former coach Tito Vilanova, who died last month.
Reflecting on his remarkable career, Puyol chose Eric Abidal lifting the Champions League trophy in 2011 as his most memorable moment.
Abidal, who missed the 2009 final through suspension, had recently undergone surgery to remove a tumour in his liver and was handed the captain's armband for the 3-1 win over Manchester United at Wembley.
"It's very difficult to pick a special moment – but if I had to choose one I'd say when Abidal lifted the Champions League trophy due to everything that it implied," Puyol explained.
"He gave us the example of fighting, he didn't give up and he was with the team and he could live a very special moment, a moment he deserved most than anyone."
Barca can win a 23rd top-flight crown with victory over Atletico Madrid on Saturday and Puyol has faith that his side will deliver, though he will play no part.
"I don't think I will need to give a speech to the squad before the match," he said. "It's a 'final' we have to win and with our supporters on our side, I am sure we will do it."
President Josep Bartomeu described Puyol as "the best captain in the history of the club", while Barca stalwart Xavi added: "Thank you for everything you have given us, for your courage, your bravery, your sacrifices."
|Moreirense 1 Sporting Lisbon 4: Montero double keeps title hopes alive|
|Bournemouth 3 Bolton Wanderers 0: Howe´s men on the verge of the Premier League|
|Valencia 4 Granada 0: Hosts resume fourth place with thrashing|
|Turkish Super Lig Review: Besiktas back on top as Fenerbahce slip|
|Denis hit with five-game ban for dressing-room attack|
|Arabian Gulf League Review: Ajman relegated, Al Jazira close in on second|
|Zanetti: Icardi close to signing new deal|
|Pfaff hails Neuer´s consistency|
|Blanc: PSG can cope with physical demands|
|Bruce: Premier League must act on ticketing prices|
|Milan v Genoa: Off-field problems dominate build-up for Inzaghi´s men|
|Juventus v Fiorentina: Champions seek derby reaction with title in sight|
|Arminia Bielefeld v Wolfsburg: Hecking´s men in last-chance saloon|
|Real Madrid v Almeria: Rodriguez vows to fight until the end|
|Klopp ´an option´ to replace Guardiola at Bayern|
|Home form crucial for Premier League survival, says Bruce|
|Leicester City v Chelsea: Mourinho backs Pearson´s men to survive|
|Villarreal v Atletico Madrid: Marcelino´s men bidding to end winless run|
|Bundesliga title a footnote in Bayern´s grand plans|
|Robben back as Guardiola calls for focus|
|Mancini: Be patient with Shaqiri, Podolski|
|Klopp shrugs off Gundogan speculation|
|Run-in does not favour Barca - Luis Enrique|
|Mourinho takes further swipe at ´boring´ claims|
|Watford must spend smart, says Hyde|
|Allegri saddened by derby crowd trouble|
|Thompson ´mortified´ after throwing pole into team-mate´s leg|
|Hernandez not concerning himself with future|
|Stranzl to play no further part in Gladbach season|
|Rodgers keen to address lack of goals|
|Giroud cannot fire Arsenal to title - Henry|
|Do not destroy Sterling, says Campbell|
|Fournier: Lyon still dreaming|
|United performance Stones´ best - Martinez|
|Carver: Abuse from fans unacceptable|
|No shame in second place - Pellegrini|
|Humble Hazard thrilled with PFA honour|
|La Liga Preview: Real continue Barca pursuit against Almeria|
|Serie A Preview: Roma eye much-needed win|
|MLS Review: Toronto end drought, Red Bulls stay unbeaten|
|Chelsea to face Sydney in June|
|Liverpool can attract players - Rodgers|
|Bayern celebrate three-peat|
|Hernandez form forces Ancelotti´s hand|
|Hazard crowned PFA Players´ Player of the Year|
|Weidenfeller ruled out of Dortmund-Bayern semi-final|
|Weidenfeller ruled out of Dortmund-Bayern semi-final|
|Ligue 1 Review: Lens´ fate all but sealed, Lyon return top|
|La Liga Review: Hernandez rescues Real, Sevilla up to fourth|
|Paris Saint-Germain v Metz: Injuries prove a frustration for Blanc|
|Serie A Review: Juve made to wait as Parma fight another day|
|Celta Vigo 2 Real Madrid 4: Hernandez to the rescue again|
|Barcelona v Getafe: Iniesta keen to maintain momentum|
|Milan players in ´retreat´|
|United have opened the door for Liverpool - Van Gaal|
|Mourinho hits back at Arsenal fans´ ´boring´ jibes|
|Juve were own worst enemy in derby defeat – Allegri|
|Bundesliga Review: Gladbach victory ends title race|
|Udinese v Inter: Mancini braced for crucial week|
|Primeira Liga Review: O Classico tie leaves Benfica on the brink|
|Bayern Munich v Borussia Dortmund: Klopp prepares for final Klassiker|
|Russian Premier League Review: Zenit edge closer to glory, Amkar Perm off the bottom|
|Arsenal played with handbrake on - Wenger|
|Mourinho swerves Oscar discussion to hail Terry display|
|Bayern´s title confirmed as Wolfsburg stumble at Gladbach|
|Eredivise Review: Late leveller see Ajax secure Champions League berth|
|Arsenal 0 Chelsea 0: Oscar decision in the spotlight after stalemate|
|Van Gaal bemoans lack of fighting spirit|
|Van Gaal: United to assess Rooney injury|
|Torino 2 Juventus 1: First derby defeat since 1995 puts title celebrations on hold|
|Martinez hails Everton´s ´incredible mentality´ after beating United|
|Everton 3 Manchester United 0: Martinez outwits Van Gaal in comprehensive win|
|Dundee United 0 Celtic 3: Griffiths´ hat-trick edges champions closer to title|
|Alderweireld reveals he has broken shoulder bone|
|Hull City v Liverpool: Lovren expecting another test of patience|
|Leverkusen dealt Papadopoulos blow|
|Five in a row for Champions League winners Auckland|
|Vermaelen cleared to play in Barca run-in|
|Hughes buoyed by Odemwingie return|
|Allardyce hails Adrian heroics|
|Villa confident of staying up - Sherwood|
|Zorc rejects talk of Gundogan departure|
|´Happy´ Hazard rejects talk of Chelsea exit|
|A-League Review: Victory claim Premiers´ Plate|
|Pochettino hoping to strengthen|
|Pjanic critical of Roma spirit|
|Rodgers: No room for error now|
|MLS Review: Revolution win big as Dynamo, Kansas City draw|
|Garcia rues sloppy build-up play|
|Jokanovic eyes title for Watford|
|Blanc: PSG have moved on|
|Hazard worth ´£100m each leg´ - Mourinho|
|Ferguson: United boss can break my trophy record|
|Levante leap clear of La Liga drop zone|
|Primeira Liga Review: Gil Vicente claim vital win, Estoril and Rio Ave held|